Sir Edmund Hillary Mountain Legacy Medal

The Sir Edmund Hillary Mountain Legacy Medal

Sir Edmund Hillary

2003 Medalists: Schmitz and Cawley

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May 2003, Tengboche (Khumbu, Nepal) The winners of the first Hillary Medal are Michael Schmitz and Helen Cawley, a husband and wife team who for the past decade have been working on keystone cultural and ecological projects in the Solu-Khumbu districts of Nepal. These include the reconstruction and renovation of Tengboche and Tupten Choling monasteries

Helen Cawley and Michael Schmitz, winners of first Sir Edmund Hillary Mountain Legacy Medal

Tengboche Reconstruction Project

Tengboche Monastery is the spiritual heart of the Sherpa homeland. In 1989 it was destroyed by fire and the main structure was subsequently rebuilt.

After the inauguration of the newly built monastery in 1994, at the request of the Abbot and the of the Nepalese government Schmitz undertook a survey to assess the needs of Tengboche in the face of ever increasing pressure from huge numbers of tourists. Problems were discussed with the abbot, monks, local people, lodge keepers, the police, Sagarmatha National Park personnel, trekking agencies, tourists and porters. The Tengboche Development Master Plan has been the basis for subsequent fund raising and work undertaken in the area by Michael Schmitz and Helen Cawley.

Among the projects undertaken and completed are:

Michael Schmitz

Schmitz reviewing engineering plans at Tengboche

Michael Schmitz leading tour at Tengboche Monastery

Michael Schmitz leading tour at Tengboche Monastery

Thubten Choling

Since 2001, Schmitz and Cawley have been working on the Thubten Choling Monastery Development Project near Junbesi at the request of His Holiness Trulshik Rinpoche, one of the teachers of the Dalai Lama. This monastery houses more than 300 monks who sought refuge there after fleeing Chinese oppression in Tibet. The project entails construction of a new large prayer hall, kitchen, dining hall, classrooms, printing press, libary, water system, toilets and hydo-power station. The project is expected to be competed in 2004.

Michael Schmitz at Thubten Choling

Michael Schmitz at Thubten Choling


High on the agenda for Schmitz and Cawley is a proposed Sherpa Boarding School, located in the Khumbu, with instruction in Sherpa and courses on Sherpa and Tibetan culture. This is seen as a high priority, in order to counter brain drain that has occurred as many parents send their children to Kathmandu boarding schools, where they effectively become assimilated into Nepali culture and lose their mountain roots.

Related links

All Medalistsspacer2003 Presentationspacer Byers (2006)spacerFreake (2008)spacerMacLennan (2010)spacerAng Rita (2011)spacerBisht (2013)spacerIves (2015) spacerPortocarrero (2017)